Zambia arrests 133 protesters after contested election

Police accuse the opposition of attacking perceived supporters of the president after disputed election result.

Zambia elections
Supporters of Edgar Lungu celebrated in the streets after he narrowly won re-election [Jean Serge/Reuters]

Zambian police have arrested 133 people protesting against the re-election of President Edgar Lungu after his main opponent Hakainde Hichilema said the vote was rigged, a senior police officer said.

Lungu, leader of the Patriotic Front (PF), won 50.35 percent of the vote, against 47.67 percent for Hichilema, of the United Party for National Development (UPND), according to the Electoral Commission of Zambia.

The opposition party quickly rejected that result, saying that the electoral commission had colluded to rig the result in favour of Lungu.

“They targeted perceived supporters of the ruling party, destroying their property,”  Godwin Phiri, a Southern province police chief, told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday, referring to those arrested.

“It is like this was well planned and they were just waiting for the winner to be declared. Calm has now returned following the arrests.”

READ MORE: Zambia: President Edgar Lungu elected in disputed vote

Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND) said it will appeal the result at the Constitutional Court, accusing election officials of fraud during the count which began after voting ended last Thursday.

“The PF has effected a coup on Zambia’s democratic process,” Hichilema said in a statement late on Monday.

“We submitted evidence before the declaration of the results regarding the gross irregularities that have taken place. That is why we will not accept the result.”

Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, reporting from the capital Lusaka, said the opposition was also trying to block the presidential inauguration to protest “leaving it up to the country’s courts to settle the differences between Zambia’s fierce political rivals”.

The EU also supported Hichilema’s view that police had acted with politically at times, and had also cracked down “quite harshly” on some of his political gatherings, Page said.

The ruling party and the electoral commission have rejected the UPND’s accusations.

READ MORE: Zambia\’s voices on the elections and their future hopes

Zambia has been one of Africa’s most stable democracies although there were skirmishes during campaigning.

Lungu, who can only be inaugurated 7 days after being proclaimed victor, was due to hold a celebratory rally on Tuesday. His re-election secures him another five-year term.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies